Image for 10 unique mental health projects helping people in the UK

10 unique mental health projects helping people in the UK

Mental health challenges can impact us all, and support comes in a wide variety of guises. Here are some UK projects helping people, via video games, songs, growing food and more

Mental health challenges can impact us all, and support comes in a wide variety of guises. Here are some UK projects helping people, via video games, songs, growing food and more

Whether you’re a world-class athlete or a returning veteran, anyone can experience mental health challenges. But that doesn’t mean we all need the same support.

From scrambling across riverside rocks in Cumbria to therapy sessions built around hip-hop, we look at 10 support projects doing things differently this Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May).

mental health
1) Bravehound

When Michael first met his dog Tich, he describes it as “meeting a long-lost love”. The veteran struggled to readjust to civilian life and felt isolated from friends and family. “The nightmares were kicking in,” he explains, “I couldn’t see any further than the black.”

Then he was paired with Tich through Bravehound, a Scottish charity that links veterans who have mental health conditions with specially trained support dogs. “[She’s] that mutual friend that sometimes a human can’t offer you,” Michael says.

Image: Anna Dudkova/Unsplash

mental health
2) The Burnt Chef Project

Facing long, anti-social hours and pressure cooker situations, it’s perhaps no surprise that more than eight out of 10 people who work in hospitality experience mental health challenges. However, research shows that almost half wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to colleagues about their experiences.

The Burnt Chef Project tackles the issue head-on, offering free 24/7 access to counsellors and clinically trained psychotherapists, as well as in-person training sessions.

Image: The Burnt Chef Project

mental health
3) Farmerados

The kitchen has long been the heart of a farmhouse home, but a project based in Somerset is taking the idea further. Farmerados hosts pop-up kitchens at agricultural shows and markets across the county, all stocked with fresh brews and plenty of biscuits. It’s in response to some studies that have found farmers to be at a higher risk of mental ill health and suicide.

“Farmers are proud and strong, so talking about problems doesn’t come easy,” say the team. “Our mission is to cultivate communities where farmers can share the load, learn from others, and leave feeling a little lighter.”

Image: Benjamin Davies/Unsplash

4) Hip Hop HEALS

Kiz Manley is the UK’s first hip-hop therapist. After using writing as a creative outlet to deal with her own grief, she was inspired to combine MC culture with science-based poetry, art and music therapy techniques.

The result is Hip Hop HEALS, a Birmingham-based organisation that delivers workshops to underrepresented young people, focus on self-care and processing trauma.

Image: Forja2 Mx/Unsplash

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5) Black Minds Matter

When Sharifa accessed therapy through Black Minds Matter it was a gamechanger. She explains: “It was a brand new experience to not have to explain some of the nuances of the black experience, as it was shared and understood. The work we did dug deep and it has helped me profoundly.”

The charity works with a collective of black therapists to provide courses of one-to-one culturally relevant therapy. “That’s what we offer,” they say. “That’s what you deserve.”

Image: Lucy J Toms

6) Sporting Wellness

Deciding when to walk away from your sport can be one of the hardest parts of being a professional athlete. But where can you turn for non-judgmental, confidential advice?

Enter Sporting Wellness, a charity that aims to provide all representative sportspeople with mental health support, whether it tackles retirement, competing with friends or the pressure to perform.

Image: Sporting Wellness

7) Safe In Our World

Emily Mitchell was just 17 when she released Fractured Minds, an escape-room-style video game focused on mental health. “Each room represents a different aspect of mental illness and how it affects people’s daily lives,” she explained at the time.

It’s also been a springboard for change in the video game industry, with royalties helping to fund Safe In Our World, a charity that challenges the work hard, play hard culture of the sector. In just four years representatives have skilled up 350 mental health first-aiders and given 150 people from underrepresented communities mental health awareness training.

Image: Safe In Our World

8) Songs And Smiles

Arthur was 91 when he attended his first Songs and Smiles session. As the only male participant, he was reluctant at first. Yet, after a few sessions, his granddaughter Anita said it brought a “sparkle” back to his life. He told her: “It’s the only day of the week I look forward to, seeing the smiles from the babies and how they love the bubbles.”

The programme, run by The Together Project, brings together children under four, their grown-ups, and care home residents for an intergenerational music group. In 2023 alone, more than 2,000 people attended at least one session.

Image: The Together Project

9) Black Dog Outdoors

During the past few years, Black Dog Outdoors has run almost 60 climbing and bouldering events. But the focus isn’t on how high you can climb. It’s about a connection with the outdoors that supports better mental health.

Participants report a boost in mood as soon as they’ve got going, whether that’s a scramble across the rocks in the Lake District or summiting a crag in Snowdonia.

Image: Kieran Yates/Unsplash

10) MindFood

Tucked away in a small allotment in Ealing is MindFood. It might look like your average fresh veg-packed patch, but it’s also home to Building Wellbeing, a programme to help men manage their mental health.

Created after the charity realised few men were joining their mental health gardening sessions, the drop-ins focus on DIY jobs, self-care tips and a cuppa. They explain: “Our sessions are not a talking therapy, so no one has to discuss their feelings unless they want to. MindFood is a ‘doing therapy’: an escape from everyday pressures, and a chance to reset.”

Image: Lucy Clark / Mind Food
Main image: Black Minds Matter. Credit: Lucy J Toms

In the UK, the NHS offers information about where to seek urgent mental health support, as well as other mental health-related organisations that can help. Find out more here

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